What Is the Difference between Underpronation & Overpronation?

By Tanya Gulliver

Pronation describes the way in which your foot moves as you walk or run. Generally, as you step down on your heel your foot rolls inward as you move forward; this helps your body absorb impact, especially when running. Underpronation means you aren't rolling enough, while overpronation means you are rolling too much. While some pronation is natural, too much can lead to injuries including problems with your feet, hips and back. Wearing the right kind of shoe can help correct pronation problems.

Shoe Wear Test

Check the pattern of wear on a pair of shoes that you have worn regularly. Since most people step down on the heel, look towards the front of the shoe. If there is excessive wear on the inside of the shoe, you are an overpronator; if the wear is more visible on the outside of the shoe, you are an underpronator. Even wear across the shoe means you have a neutral stride.

Footprint Test

Wet your feet and stand on a brown paper bag. Step off carefully, being sure not to drag your feet. Examine your footprint. Both neutral steps and underpronation will show a clear curve on the inside of your foot, whereas overpronation will barely leave any curve. If you tend to overpronate, almost your whole foot will be visible in your print due to low arches; if you underpronate, only a tiny band will show connecting your baby toe and heel because of high arches. Neutral pronation footprints show less than half of the foot on the outside edge.

Money Test

Stand with your feet flat on the floor and ask a friend to slide a coin underneath your arch. If a dime doesn't easily fit, you likely overpronate and have flat feet. If a nickel can disappear you have a normal arch, while if a quarter can slide in easily you have a high arch and probably underpronate.

Proper Footwear

It is important to buy shoes that will support the type of pronation you have, especially if you run, jog or spend a lot of time standing. Proper support from your footwear will help prevent injuries. A specialty shoe shop or running store can help you choose the best shoes for your needs.

To ensure the best fit, shop in the afternoon when your feet are likely at their largest. If you haven't been tested for gait or pronation, bring a pair of your old running shoes to show the salesperson and wear the same kind of socks you will be wearing with the shoes normally. People who wear orthotics should try new shoes with their orthotic to ensure a proper fit. If your feet are different sizes, buy your shoes in the larger size.

Choosing Your Shoes

If you overpronate, choose a straight shape for your running shoe; If your overpronation is severe you should look for motion-control shoes, but if you just overpronate a little choose support shoes. Motion-control shoes will provide support to your feet and prevent your foot from rolling inwards. These shoes will be very rigid due to the level of support provided.

If you lean towards underpronation, choose a shoe with a curved shape; this encourages motion of your foot in the right direction. You also need to look for running shoes that are cushioned to act as shock absorbers for your feet.

Semi-curved stability shoes are best for neutral pronators. These shoes mix cushioning, arch support and strength, but don't control the direction of your foot as much a motion-control shoe.

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